Facebook Removes 32 Pages, Accounts Deemed Fake

by Abel Hampton August 2, 2018, 1:36
Facebook Removes 32 Pages, Accounts Deemed Fake

The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab worked with Facebook to find the political influence efforts on its web pages and viewed the "fake" accounts cited by Facebook before they were removed. It has cracked down on fake accounts and tried to slow the spread of fake news and misinformation through outside fact-checkers.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is heading a sprawling investigation into possible collusion with Russian Federation by Trump's campaign to tip the vote toward the real estate tycoon.

The accounts even went so far as to post events for real-life protests, often in response to other protests.

However, it's still unclear whether the latest pages were directly tied to Russian Federation.

Facebook has removed the suspect accounts, but says other legitimate page administrators unwittingly interacted with them.

"Whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their identities" than Russian Federation did in 2016, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said Tuesday.

"We believe that this could be partly due to the changes we have made over the past year to make this kind of abuse much harder", Facebook wrote in its blogpost. For example, they used virtual private networks and internet phone services to mask their locations, and paid third parties to run ads on their behalf.

The tech giant's investigation is at an early stage, but was revealed now because one of the pages being covertly operated was orchestrating a counter-protest to a white nationalism rally in Washington. On Tuesday, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote in a company blog post that his team couldn't say for sure who was behind the new campaign. A pending bill proposed by Warner, called the Honest Ads Act, would hold technology companies that publish political ads to the same disclosure responsibilities as broadcasters. In addition to "Resisters", Facebook said the pages with the most followers included "Aztlan Warriors", "Black Elevation" and "Mindful Being". They were live between April 2017 and June 2018.

It's unclear if anyone actually rocked up to one of those events.

The revelation caps a disastrous week for Facebook, which has seen its share price plunge and billions of dollars being wiped off its total market value and the personal wealth of Mark Zuckerberg, its founder.

In its statement, Facebook said that it first discovered the accounts - eight Facebook pages, 17 Facebook profiles, and seven Instagram accounts - two weeks ago.

Two U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that Russia was behind the Facebook campaign, but one noted that "the similarities, aims and methodology relative to the 2016 Russian campaign are quite striking".

That effort had generated some support, with Facebook saying "we disabled the event earlier today", and that it would now set about "informing the approximately 2,600 users interested in the event, and the more than 600 users who'd said they'd attend, about what happened".

The company added that the perpetrators have been "more careful to cover their tracks" than in 2016, in part because of steps Facebook has taken to prevent abuse over the past year.

They included an event called "No Unite the Right 2 - DC" that was meant to act as a counter-protest to a white nationalist gathering next month, and posts based around the hashtag #AbolishICE - a campaign to scrap the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency over its controversial policy of separating children from their parents at the United States border.

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